Thanksgiving is right around the corner. There are many reasons I am thankful this year. My yoga practice is the root for many reasons I am grateful this year. Yoga has helped me through some really difficult times in my life. Reflecting on the past year, there has been one constant source of happiness in my life: yoga. I can always count on my yoga practice to provide a source of comfort, relief, joy, safety, love, confidence, growth, mindfulness, balance, strength, empowerment, and serenity.
Yoga has given me the tools to integrate my experiences. My yoga practice has provided me a safe haven to explore my experiences and emotions. Last year, my life was in a very different place. I was miserable at work, full of self-doubt, self-conscious, and constantly feeling like I wasn't good enough in every aspect of my life. I needed yoga to get through the constant negative thoughts in my mind. My practice was a time to meditate and let go of negative thoughts. Savasana at the end of class was my personal paradise, I loved the silence. I could just be: I wasn't thinking about tomorrow or even after class. I could just enjoy the present moment. After my practice, I had a different perspective my experiences, there was a positive shift in my negative feelings. Whenever I have a difficult experience I know I can go to my mat and get to the root of my emotions.
Many yogi's I have spoken with hold tension in one particular area of their body, usually it's their hips. I hold tension in my chest and neck. The tension in my chest makes backbends difficult for me. There is also an emotional aspect connected to my difficulty with backbends and chest-openers. My difficulty with heart-openers was connected to my detachment from my emotions. In the past, I have struggled with understanding, expressing, and integrating emotions from past experiences. Yoga has helped me to connect to my emotions. Last year I went on a retreat at Kripalu called "Connect to Your Spirit: A Revitalizing Forrest Yoga Retreat". Forrest Yoga is a style of yoga, not yoga in a forest. Although, I thought I was signing up to do tree pose with all the trees at Kripalu. Forrest Yoga is an intensely physical and internally focused practice that emphasizes how to carry a transformative experience off the mat and into daily life. Forrest Yoga is used as a way to find and cleanse emotional and mental blocks that limit your life. Forrest Yoga is a form of warm yoga, the temperature is around 85 degrees and the practice includes long holds for every pose. I remember holding a lunge for what felt like a year. The most uncomfortable part of holding my lunge was surrendering to the chest-opener aspect of the pose. I started to tear up, because I was breaking through emotional and mental blocks. I was finally connecting to my heart and my emotions. This was a huge step for me. I still have a long way to go with fully opening up my heart, but I recognize and am working on heart-openers and the associated emotional connections.
At a time in my life when I didn't feel I was good at anything, I was able to gain confidence through my practice. I set goals of poses I would like to incorporate in my practice. Through a dedicated daily practice focusing on warm-up poses that would help me to reach my goal pose, I would eventually achieve my goal pose and get to the root of my emotional or mental blocks. I never thought I would be able to do a split. I focused my practice on poses such as frog pose, runners lunge, and bound-angle pose. Through these poses I learned to let go of negative thoughts and fully surrender to this intense hamstring opener. Yoga is so much more than completing a list of poses. However, the goals I set and achieve in my yoga practice builds on my self-confidence. With each pose I learn something new about my body, mind, and spirit. Yoga has helped me to face certain fears and become more empowered, confident, mindful, and balanced.
My yoga practice allows me an outlet to express myself. I can be silly and laugh at myself when I fall on my face (which I do often). There are many lessons I've learned on the mat that translate to my life off the mat. One of those lessons is to not take life so seriously. Mistakes are inevitable and help me to grow. Personally, the best way to get through a difficult situation is by being able to laugh at myself, and know whatever emotion I'm presently feeling won't last forever.
For all of the reasons I've listed above and many more, I am grateful for my yoga practice. I am constantly learning about myself through my yoga practice. I am so thankful I began my yoga journey, and that my yoga journey will never end. I will continue to learn and grow through my practice. My yoga practice has a very special place in my heart, and I am so thankful to share my passion for yoga with you.
I would love to hear what you are grateful for this Thanksgiving, please leave a comment!